Most of us arrive in the Bay Area knowing that we are not going to stay here permanently. The majority stays for 2-5 years depending on the goal, whether people study or whether they are doing a post doc. I met a few people who also stay 3 months to 1 year. You can imagine that life is not the same once you arrive and just before you leave. Different thoughts and process dictate your day to day life.
I found a nice graph on the web about stages of cultural adaptation which clearly shows the state of emotional well being over time. I can agree with the graph, before you arrive I had lots of doubts, but I was also very excited, lots of ups and downs. Then when we finally arrived in the States, everything was so exciting, you make friends with everyone and the new world is just fabulous. This so called honeymoon time is followed by some reality checks, I would call them, where you realize not everything is fabulous and that you are actually missing home. Then you start to adapt to your new surrounds and friends and life becomes normal.
In that time, conversation with acquaintances and friends also change. First you speak and advice each other a lot in the honeymoon and culture shock phase. You speak about job opportunities, your kids, possibilities etc.Then I think, people get to know each other and have more intimate conversations. You are planning trips and meeting friends etc.
At the moment I have lots of friends who are about to move on and conversations definitely change again. You talk about the next step, opportunities where to go and what to do. The leaving phase can be quite stressful, as the next step might not always be clear. A lot of us have returned to their home countries, but they have not returned home. They returned to another place in the country of origin. Although these spouses might be familiar with the culture over there, they are now used to it, because now they know the American way of doing things. Not everything is rosy when returning home, the graph shows definite swings in your emotional state. Speaking to some of my friends who have returned home, they say it will take at least a year to adapt again. Your emotional state reflects what you are willing to talk to your friends about.
I just moved to Germany and stopped over in California and I can tell you that there was less party and more serious talk this time. But don’t let the ups and downs discourage you. You are in for a great ride from the beginning to the end. And remember you wont have the ups if you don’t know what downs are. Life always has both sides. Imagine, everything would be straight forward and easy, how boring would life be. We only have one life and we have to live it. Good luck and enjoy every single phase you experience.
PS.: There is a beautiful workshop at Bechtel about transition in different cultures on the 2nd of November 2011. “Life changes and transition in a cultural diversity”.This workshop gives you the chance to hear how others have successfully made the changes to living at Stanford (career adjustments, cultural differences, new community & more).